The working parts in major league baseball will soon start changing faster than the numbers at Godshall's Poultryin the Reading Terminal. Free agency will again have players moving around from team to team, jockeying for more money and more years.
Take the Phillies, for example. You probably won't see in a Phillies uniform again: Antonio Alfonseca, Tom Gordon, Kyle Lohse, Jose Mesa, J.C. Romero, John Ennis, Freddy Garcia, Jon Lieber, Rod Barajas, Tadahito Iguchi, Abraham Nunez, and Aaron Rowand. New faces most likely will replace all of them.
Same for managers. If your favorite team played less than .500 baseball, you might see a new skipper at the helm in spring training. In Philly, the bottom feeders at radio 610 were calling for Charlie Manuel's head after his team won the Eastern Division and finished, 89-73.
But the biggest changes are the general manager's (GM); changes not only in new faces, but in philosophy, too. The Atlanta Braves' John Schuerholz, the longest-tenured GM in baseball and Four Star General of the Old Guard, has stepped-up to team president, leaving behind an impressive run of 14 consecutive division championships, five NL pennants, and a World Series championship.
But for the past two years, the Braves have not made the post season, and for four years before that, the Braves suffered through four straight first-round playoff exits. In baseball, it's not what have done for me? But what have you done for me lately? Schuerholz's assistant Frank Wren will take over as the Braves' GM.
But the change of guard in Atlanta also signals a move away from how players are examined--away from gut feelings and hunches about players, to statistical analysis. Away from the Old Guard--clip board carrying scout in the stands, to the new Smart-Guard--number crunching analytical-college-educated-mathematicians. Can you say Theo Epstein? (photo left)
Florida Marlins' Terry Beinfest is out, his assistant Michael Hill is in. Minnesota Twins' Terry Ryan is out, his assistant Bill Smith is in. Pittsburgh Pirates' Dave Littlefield is out, and 37 year old Neal Huntington is in. Tim Purpura was fired in Houston and Ed Wade, the Phillies GM for 8 years with zero playoff appearances to show for it, is in.
But Phillies fans may thank Temple University's Ed Wade (right), the skydiving GM who never met a tree he didn't like, for not going for the quick fix by trading a Myers, Hamels, or Utley, to fluff his resume.
Jim Duquette resigned in Baltimore and Walt Jocketty, whose club won the whole enchilada in ' 06, got fired in ' 07. The Cardinals said his leaving was a "mutual decision," which means he wasn't fired but didn't quit. Anyway, you can apply for either position online. But don't bother if you are not a Harvard or Yale alumnus/a. Etes vous obtenant ceci, Drew?
Not only are clubs going after the numbers crunching analyticals, but it helps if you went to an Ivy League school. Boston's Theo Epstein, Yale; the Indians' Mark Shapiro, Princeton; the Rangers' Jon Daniels, Cornell; the Marlins' Hill, Harvard. And a dozen other Ivy League grads hold front office positions in baseball. The Pirates Huntington is an Amherst graduate.
Which brings us to the Phillies. GM Pat Gillick is entering the final year of his contract and said he would retire in ' 08.. His predecessor is sure to be Ruben Amaro, Jr., perhaps a card carrying member of the Smart-Guard and a graduate of the Ivy League West, Standford University. Where Gillick won and lost on hunches from pot-bellied scouts who were sure Jose Mesa still had some gittie-up left on his fastball, Amaro will certainly number crunch.
Currently Gillick's assistant, Amaro (left) is a pedigree baseball man whose 'no-hit-great-glove' dad was a shortstop for the Phillies from ' 60 through ' 65; while the color barrier certainly denied his Cuban born grandfather, Santos, who played for the Tampico Lightermen of the Mexican League, access to the major leagues. Ruben Amaro, Jr., 42, spent time with the California Angels, Cleveland Indians, and the Phillies between 1991 and 1998, hitting .235.
He was a bat boy for the Phillies and was the closest human being to Pete Rose when Rose snared the ball after it popped out of Bob Boone's glove at the Vet on a chilly October night in Philadelphia in 1980. In college he helped the Cardinal win their first ever NCAA baseball championship as a senior in 1987. As the lead off hitter that year, he led Stanford in runs (77), triples (6), and stolen bases (38).
From the Old Guard to the Smart Guard. For the Phillies, it won't come too soon.
How do drug dealers get their guns, anyway?